Monday, 21 October 2013

Full Circle

 There were only a few minutes left. I stared at myself in the mirror, trying to gee myself up, but I felt a horrible twisting in my guts. They were waiting for me.

I'd spent the better part of the whole day getting ready, looking at what material I had, and trying to think out my strategies. Several draft plans had ended up scrunched in a bin, and I had gone through a packet and a half of cheap cigarettes. In the end, I thought I'd made something that would get me through. It had a beginning, a middle and an end. It did, or should do, what it said on the tin, as it were. My train of thought hadn't been helped by the fact that I'd been fighting several issues all day. The first was a hangover, caused by watching Galatasaray draw a match with Manchester United the night before, leading to celebrations the size of which I'd never experienced before. The second issue was the noise from the street. I had never really encountered such pervasive, incessant noise pollution before, from gas vans with jingles that sounded like ice cream vans to fishmongers screaming their wares, from insanely loud music in passing cars to streets full of people calling, shouting, selling, announcing. However, I felt, finally, that I was ready.
I picked up my plan and headed off.
me heading bravely off to face the action.

As I walked towards my destination, however, I felt my certainty and confidence drain away, leaving nothing but doubt. I arrived, but with half an hour before my fateful assignation, I locked myself in the bathroom, looked at myself, and said out loud,
'What the fuck am I doing here teaching English?'
Oh well, who wants to live forever! TEEAAACCCHHHHH!!!!

There was nothing for it however, but to go forth, open the door, and be introduced to fourteen polite, smiling faces. I took a deep breath, and said, loudly,
'Good Morning!'
It was seven in the evening.

And so began my career in TEFL. My first real lesson, on the 21st October, 1993. Here's the page I used:
Good Old New Cambridge English Course, Book 1, Unit 9c, 'I look like my father'
How I managed to stretch this over an hour and a half of teaching, I have no idea. Yet it has stuck vividly with me, simply because it was that very first lesson. I remember about half the class as well: Mustafa, Umut, Tolga, Cigdem, Esra, Muge, Ibrahim, and Pinar. They were all aged 18-24, so not much younger than me, really.
Since then, I've taught literally thousands of students, and covered virtually everything. My first three years of lesson were mostly at elementary and pre-intermediate level, using the above book and the original Headway series, to the extent that I can still quote large chunks of the tapescripts, complete with the actors' dodgy 'foreign' accents (e.g. 'I live in Tex-ass. That's the secon' biggest state. I got fourteen-fifteen bedrooms...'). I have taught TOEFL prep, and experience I'd rather avoid doing again, thank you very much. Later, I progressed to the dizzy heights of Intermediate level classes, and slowly progressed upwards to do, once I came back to the UK, FCE, CAE and CPE groups, as well as International Foundation Programmes and ESP courses. I've taught EFL and ESOL and the shades in between.
I've been a DOS. I've been Course Leader and Programme Leader. I've been a presenter at conferences, and delivered CPD to colleagues.
And where do I find myself now? After all the cuts to FE spending and funding, after several OFSTED inspections where Leadership and Management have been slated, but nothing has changed, after my team has been butchered to just 2.7 Full Time workers?
I'm teaching an elementary class and a pre-intermediate course. And after years of teaching just high-level students, I've remembered what kept me going in those first couple of years: A student's eyes light up because they'd said something accurately for the VERY first time, or they'd worked out a concept and could apply it straight away, that magical moment of comprehension. You can get it at higher levels, but there's a visceral shiver of excitement from seeing it happen with someone for the first time ever, and use it straight away.
So today, with my Entry 2 (CEFR: A2-B1; EFL equivalent: Elementary) ESOL group, I taught the page above.


I brought it to a quick end, and carried on with something brilliant instead.

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